Virgil Griffith charged after giving North Korea cryptocurrency talk

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ethereum: A photo illustration of the digital Cryptocurrency, Ethereum, is seen on September 13 2018 in Hong Kong, Hong Kong.Yu Chun Christopher Wong/S3studio/Getty Images

  • Federal prosecutors accused an American cryptocurrency expert of helping North Korea evade US sanctions with technical knowledge about blockchain platforms. 
  • Prosecutors alleged that Virgil Griffith, 36, used his remarks at a North Korean cryptocurrency conference to describe how North Korea could “launder money and evade sanctions” and “achieve independence from the global banking system.” 
  • In August, it was revealed that North-Korean-sponsored hacking groups attacked critical infrastructure of banks and cryptocurrency exchanges to profit an estimated $2 billion for the country’s nuclear and missile programs. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Federal prosecutors accused an American cryptocurrency expert Virgil Griffith of helping North Korea evade US sanctions. 

Griffith, 36, was charged with conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, according to a criminal complaint, and could face up to 20 years in prison. 

The Justice Department alleged in the complaint that, while giving a presentation titled “Blockchain and Peace” in Pyongyang, Griffith described how North Korea could “launder money and evade sanctions” and “use these technologies to achieve independence from the global banking system.” 

The complaint also said that Griffith had attended the cryptocurrency conference even after the government denied him permission to do so. 

US Federal prosecutor Geoffrey S. Berman said in a statement that Griffith allegedly “provided highly technical information to North Korea, knowing that this information could be used to help North Korea launder money and evade sanctions.”

“In allegedly doing so, Griffith jeopardized the sanctions that both Congress and the president have enacted to place maximum pressure on North Korea’s dangerous regime,” Berman said in the statement.

The US and the United Nations have ramped up sanctions on North Korea in recent years as a bid to settle its expanding nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Griffith’s arrest seemed to stir outrage in his tech circles, as the hacker magazine 2600 tweeted that the arrest was “an attack on all of us.” The magazine’s editor, Emmanuel Goldstein, tweeted in apparent disbelief that attending a conference and explaining the “concept of cryptocurrency…are crimes now?!”

Cryptocurrency has emerged at the center of the controversial programs after it was revealed that state-sponsored hacking groups attacked critical infrastructure of banks and cryptocurrency exchanges to profit an estimated $2 billion for its nuclear and missile programs. 

The former programmer was called an “internet man of mystery” by The New York Times in 2008, and described himself to the outlet as a “disruptive technologist.” He currently works for Ethereum, a platform that produces a digital currency that rivals Bitcoin.



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